It felt unnatural.
One day I was spending every single minute with my baby and the next, well, I was dropping her off with a person who felt like a stranger I decided to trust. I would wave goodbye and blow kisses as I backed away, smiling as big as I could. Get in and get out, I was told if I wanted her to transition and not have separation issues. So I’d be right back out the daycare door within minutes, leaving a chunk of my heart behind. If I was lucky, I could make it all the way to the car before it hit. Sometimes it would creep in slowly and other times it would slam into me like a bus with no breaks. The guilt. And not just any guilt: the dreaded Working-Mom Guilt.
No one told me how bad I would feel about going back to work.
Of all the things mothers are told about going back to work, no one seems to warn you about sitting in your car desperately trying to salvage your mascara job and feeling like not just a terrible person, but a horrible mother too. Other days you’ll get a snide comment from an acquaintance about “someone else raising your baby” or how they “could never be away from my child all day.” It emotionally guts you a bit, especially in those first few months of being back at work.
But believe it or not, Working-Mom Guilt isn’t a life sentence. You can rise above it and even feel proud. It’s important because if you wallow in the guilt, you’ll down in it. And when I say I get it, believe me, I get it. Not only did I go back from mat leave early but I also had a long commute and often worked late. But it’s been three years now and while I can still remember those early days like they were yesterday, I’ve also learned when you let go of the guilt, every facet of your life improves both inside and outside the home.
Five tips for coping with Working-Mom Guilt
#1: Know your why
Everyone has a reason why they work. Sometimes it’s as practical and straightforward as your family can’t eat or have a roof over their heads without your income. It can also be because you have dreams and goals. Maybe you love what you do or you just can’t be home with the kids all day long. Maybe it’s a bit of everything. No one reason is better or worse than another. The important thing is to write down and know YOUR why. It’s not for rattling off to nosey people who ask; it’s for when Working-Mom Guilt pops up and says “Good Morning!” you can remember, there’s a reason and a purpose. And when you have a purpose, it’s a lot easier to be positive. Guilt doesn’t stand a chance against positivity.
#2: Take your to-do list and cut it in half. Then in half again
One of the biggest reasons working moms feel guilty is because we try to do it all. It could be the movies or social media, but we hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard. We feel like we have too many balls in the air by trying to be a star employee and a perfect mom. We want to prove we can still excel at our job while spending enough quality time at home with our kids. It’s not sustainable and it breaks people quickly. Don’t expect you’ll be able to do as much at home as you did before you had kids. It’s impossible. If you’re feeling like you can’t keep up, cut that to-do list down. And then down again. Do what you can and remember the laundry can wait. If you keep trying to get too much done every day, you’re going to constantly feel like you’re failing.
#3: Write down the best bits.
When you’re feeling down about spending the day away from your child, remember the things you get to enjoy at work. After all, there are some serious perks. You get to pee alone! You can enjoy hot coffee again! You get to have conversations with adults! There are new work clothes, being called by your first name, going out for lunches, creating things for yourself that you’re proud of, learning a new skill, and more. If you take the time to think about the good things and write them down, you’ll see there are a lot of positives to having those working hours to yourself.
#4: Switch up your social media
Social media isn’t real. When you’re looking at a Perfect Mom’s profile, you are usually only seeing their best side and happiest moments. You’re not seeing the tantrums, the frustrations, the moment they lost their temper and the dark times. If someone on your social media gives you a major case of the guilts, then hide that person’s posts for a while or simply unfollow them. You can also try swapping those unrealistic accounts for women in your industry who are also mothers and inspire you. Create a social media environment for yourself that helps you feel empowered and uplifted.
#5: Make working-mom friends
We are greatly impacted by whom we spend with. If you don’t have a friend who is also a mother and works outside the home, you need at least one. You need someone who understands your frustrations and someone you can vent to about work drama. Of course, you can share those feelings with anyone, but by having someone else who is also in the trenches to chat with, you can discuss things from a different perspective and at the very least, you won’t feel so alone.
These are only a few tips that can help you cope with Working-Mom Guilt. But remember that feeling
guilty implies you’ve done something wrong. You haven’t. Life is much too short for regret or guilt. These years will fly by so don’t let guilt steal the joy from them. You’re not just a good mom; you’re an awesome one. The guilt may never entirely go away but next time you’re at work and feel a wave of that Working Mom Guilt, just remember these words:
You get to pee alone today.
Meaghan Hadwyn is the co-founder of Other Life Lessons, a Toronto-based company that creates honest children’s books to help parents start conversations. Their award-winning books are available at select retailers and at otherlifelessons.com. Series One titles include Why Mommy Works, Life’s Not Fair, and Sometimes Someone Dies. Series Two will be available in Spring 2019. Their downloadable PDF “Going Back To Work Sucks: A Working Mom’s Guide To Getting Back At” is also available exclusively at OtherLifeLessons.com
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